Friday, March 28, 2008

Lutheran CORE Responds to Draft

A Response from Lutheran CORE to the Draft Statement on Human Sexuality

March 2008

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has prepared a draft of a proposed social statement on sexuality. What follows now will be an important process of review, critique, and analysis of this statement throughout the church. This analysis will take place through congregational studies, individual responses, and comments made at the various synodical hearings. Lutheran CORE urges that all members of the ELCA participate actively in this review process. Once this review process is completed, the Task Force on Sexuality will prepare a revised version of the social statement. On the recommendation of the Church Council, this revised statement will be presented to the Minneapolis churchwide assembly, August 2009, for action.

In February 2009, the task force will prepare a series of implementing resolutions. Among these resolutions will be recommendations regarding the blessing and ordination of sexually active gay and lesbian persons. These implementing resolutions will also come before the 2009 churchwide assembly for action.

As participants within Lutheran CORE, we offer the following initial comments on the draft statement.

Our first word is a word of thanks to the members of the task force and the staff who prepared this draft. They have worked hard, under pressure, and have earned the thanks of the ELCA for their work. As the process moves toward the preparation of a final draft, Lutheran CORE participants will continue to pray for the task force and for the leadership of our church.

There is much to be commended in this draft statement. It is, for the most part, well-written and understandable. It contains numerous biblical references (although we wish that more passages were quoted in the body of the statement, rather than simply cited).

The draft touches on many theological themes that characterize specifically Lutheran perspectives. Notable in the draft are, among others, presentations on the Word of God as Law and Gospel, the uses of the Law, the centrality of justification, and the understanding of believers as simultaneously sinners and redeemed. The task force is to be commended for providing these obviously Lutheran perspectives within the draft.

Moreover, we note with appreciation the way the draft addresses many current issues on sexuality. We lift up especially the role of the family, the abuses of sexuality in our society, and the dominating influence of advertising and the media in our culture. We commend the task force for addressing these issues forthrightly. We also appreciate the way the draft recognizes the role Christians have sometimes played in the dehumanization and discrimination against gay and lesbian persons.

In short, there is much in the draft that we can commend and applaud. Unfortunately, there are also elements in the draft statement that are troubling, even worrisome, to us.

1. The first is the definition of marriage. True, marriage is affirmed as a covenant of fidelity between one man and one woman. But this definition is not consistently maintained throughout the draft. In fact, references to other forms of the family and to other relationships as valid weaken the definition of marriage as initially presented. There are few references to procreation as one of the chief purposes of marriage. The discussion on marriage and homosexuality is itself unbalanced -- one sentence for heterosexual marriage and several sentences on homosexual unions. A more detailed attention to Genesis 1 and 2 and Matthew 19:4ff would strengthen the draft considerably. We suspect, frankly, that a new definition of marriage is being suggested -- not a lifelong covenant of fidelity between one man and one woman, but a relationship of trust and love between two persons. The task force has been charged with preparing recommendations on the blessing and rostering of gay and lesbian persons. There are strong hints in the draft that open the door for recommending such blessings and ordinations -- a prospect that distresses and alarms us.

2. Secondly, there are numerous references in the draft to "pastoral" and "pastoral care." Unfortunately these terms are nowhere defined in the draft. The Lutheran heritage understands pastoral care to be a personal address that is based on God's Word of both Law and Gospel. By contrast, pastoral care in the draft appears to be largely a matter of affirmation and support.

3. Thirdly, there is -- to us -- the confusing use of the category of trust in social relationships and institutions. The observations in this section of the draft are buttressed by references to unnamed social scientists. Trust is an appropriate category to use in the God - human relationship and to relationships among humans. But, in view of the two kingdoms doctrine, the Christian's life in society -- family, state, education, commerce, the arts -- is more characterized by justice, reliability, and order, rather than trust. Or have we misunderstood the draft?

4. Fourthly, the draft needs to be significantly re-framed and re- structured. This is especially the case with the first half of the document. The draft begins a statement on sexuality with a reference to the Great Commandments, followed by an extensive discussion of the incarnation that leads in turn to a fulsome paean in honor of the resurrection and the new creation. In so doing, the draft places the whole matter of sexuality within the saving work of Christ, the Gospel. The Lutheran tradition, by contrast, places sexuality within the doctrines of creation and the Law. Human sexuality is part of God's created order for the world. Sexuality is not salvific, and sexual intercourse is not a sacrament. On this point we feel that the draft needs serious revision. It would be clearer if the draft were to begin with creation -- rather than the incarnation -- and then move to a discussion of the Word of God as both Law and Gospel. It is our hope that subsequent revisions of the draft will reflect these observations.

5. There is, moreover, the overall flow of the draft -- or rather the lack of it. Themes appear and disappear, to the point where the draft itself seems confused and disjointed. It is not always easy to discern how one theme leads to another. A much better way of dealing with the issues of marriage, family, and sexuality would be to move clearly from Biblical interpretation to practical application. We also wish that the draft had incorporated the more direct affirmations on sexuality from the American Lutheran Church and Lutheran Church in America statements on sexuality and from the ELCA Church Council's 1996 message, "Some Common Convictions."

There are other concerns we have about the draft statement -- too many to mention here. We hope and pray that the churchwide discussion that is now underway will lead to a much improved statement. We also hope and pray that the implementing resolutions will clearly re-affirm the rostering provisions that are in place in Vision and Expectations and in the relevant sections in Definitions and Guidelines.

In the meantime we urge everyone in the church to take advantage of the review process for this statement. May God through his Spirit strengthen the church in faithfulness to his Word.

For the Lutheran CORE Steering Committee:

Kenneth H. Sauer
Paull E. Spring

Lutheran CORE (Coalition for Reform) is a coalition of individuals, congregations and reform movements in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America that speaks for the historic center of Lutheranism. We seek to preserve within the ELCA the authority of Scripture according to the Lutheran Confessions. Lutheran CORE's members and participants represent the vast middle of American Lutheranism, spanning geographical regions, political viewpoints and vocations, but we are united by our common theological convictions. Lutheran CORE is a voice of the solid, faithful core that is the majority of ELCA members, pastors and congregations.

More information on Lutheran CORE can be found at

The ELCA draft social statement, related materials and an online response form are available at

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Bishop Brauer-Rieke: Great Joy and Pride

Shrimp here. The ELCA Bishop of Oregon writes his Synod "with great joy and pride" on the release of the First Draft.
March 13, 2008

Dear Brothers and Sisters of the Oregon Synod,

It is with great joy and pride that I write to you today as the first draft of our proposed ELCA Social Statement on Human Sexuality is released. I write with joy because this draft takes us closer to the adoption of a much needed statement for our church. I write with pride because this draft is evidence of good work done in difficult times. There is work yet to be done, but we are well on our way.

The first time I read this document I disciplined myself to read it word for word and beginning to end, but I must confess I read it with specific questions in mind. You may find yourself doing the same thing. This is understandable. However, once you’ve done this I hope you will go back and begin to digest the statement as a whole for what it is – a word to society from a Lutheran perspective about human sexuality in all it’s diverse dimensions.

As we begin to digest this document together I believe you will be pleased. The draft says much:
  • The notion of family is front and center. It is in family that children are nurtured, kept safe and are taught the basics of trust and love. Lutherans have always maintained this.
  • The statement affirms our traditional understanding that marriage as an institution between a man and a woman, through which the blessings of family flow.
  • The safety and well being of children is held up as a non-negotiable throughout.
  • Demeaning social trends such as the commercialization of sex, pornography, date rape and early adolescent sexual engagement are all spoken to.
  • This statement also recognizes the concerns and questions of single adults, the widowed, divorced and much more.
While doing this the draft also takes seriously the challenges and realities of modern day society.
  • We recognize that financial factors sometimes encourage senior adults to choose co-habitation over legal marriage.
  • We recognize that families come in many configurations including single parent households, blended families, same gender led households and grandparents raising grandchildren.
  • In our world children physically mature earlier than in the past, but often postpone marriage until later than has been common. This draft tackles pre-marital sexual concerns in a realistic way.
The ELCA offers much to society around human sexuality with this statement. It is clear in proclamation, open for engagement and realistic in its hopes and expectations.

With the publication of this draft we now enter into the final stages of our social statement process. I have proposed the following to our Oregon Synod pastors and I invite you into the same journey:

First of all, this document is 45 pages long and it is not all easy reading. I am inviting pastors and other rostered leaders into leadership conversation forums. Our first responsibility is to help you, those we are called to serve, understand and responsibly engage this draft. To help you we must do our homework first.

After this I hope that over the spring and summer you and your congregation will work with the draft. This work awaits the careful conversation of the saints. I will also create a letter or presentation personally as I know many wish to hear my perspective and not all congregations may choose to spend much time on this issue.

Finally, this summer there will be synod hearings scheduled on the draft. You are encouraged to attend. At least one member of the ELCA Human Sexuality Task Force will be present at each hearing and they are most anxious to hear what you have to say. Feedback from these hearings along with written evaluations will be used to shape the final draft taken to the 2009 Churchwide Assembly.

I thank you for your prayers and passions around this most central of human concerns and blessings. We have a good draft, a good process, and your loving concern to bring it to fruition. Let us do so with integrity, honesty, pride and joy.

Bishop Dave Brauer-Rieke
"Realistic," eh? Okay. We'll be engaging with the draft soon.

Question: Is Jesus, or are the New Testament Epistles, "realistic" in instructing those who would be disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ?

With much pride and joy, Shrimp out.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Does Anybody Think Around Here?

Shrimp here. And you thought this was bad.

On Maundy Thursday, the following was posted on the ELCA News Blog. Note carefully the contents of paragraph 1, paragraph 2, and paragraph 3 so you know what is (journalistically speaking) of first, second, and third importance.

Lutherans wade in water during World Water Day, Easter Vigil, March 22

by Melissa Ramirez Cooper, ELCA News Service

More than 1 billion people in the world lack access to clean, safe drinking water. In an effort to bring about awareness, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution in 1992 to designate March 22 as "World Water Day." "Water access is a priority to all people, and World Water Day is a day to bring attention to those in our world who lack clean, safe drinking water, and adequate sanitation services," said Patricia Zerega, director, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Corporate Social Responsibility. The ELCA social statement, "Caring for Creation Vision, Hope, and Justice," affirms the church's support for proposals and actions to protect and restore "water, especially drinking water, groundwater, polluted runoff, and industrial and municipal waste."

The new edition of the ELCA World Hunger's "Congregation Connections" and the new ELCA World Hunger "Reproducible Stories" will feature water and justice themes, said Sue Edison-Swift, communication director, ELCA World Hunger and Disaster Appeal. Both resources will be made available in April. "Just as water is foundational for life, life-giving water efforts are foundational to ELCA World Hunger," according to Kathryn Sime, director, ELCA World Hunger and Disaster Appeal. "Clean water becomes a trout farm, safety in a refugee camp, or heightened knowledge about malaria prevention," said Sime.

For Christians, water is symbolic in Baptism. "A number of ELCA congregations will be conducting Baptisms on March 22, since it is the Vigil of Easter this year," said the Rev. Marcus Kunz, executive for discernment of contextual and theological Issues, ELCA Office of the Presiding Bishop. "The Easter Vigil service is focused on Baptism and the believer's baptismal journey with Christ in his death and resurrection, following the tradition of the early church in baptizing converts at the Easter Vigil after catechesis during the season of Lent. The story of the Israelites crossing the Red Sea is read. When the Easter Vigil service is observed with gusto, a lot of water gets thrown about, and a thanksgiving prayer full of water references is prayed," he said.
See the post here, including scads of links that we ignored for you to follow. And a combination of thanks to and shame on Pastor Zip for bringing this to our attention.

So you know that the whole place isn't nuts, the front page of the ELCA web site is currently featuring Michelangelo's Pietà. It doesn't get much better than that. (Meaning the answer to my headline is, "Yes." At least sometimes.)

Shrimp out.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Retired Bishop Hendrix answers questions

Shrimp here. The York (Penn.) Daily Record has a Q&A conducted by e-mail with retired Lower Susquehanna Synod Bishop Carol Hendrix, who is a member of the ELCA Task Force for ELCA Studies on Sexuality.
Q: Why is it a draft? Will it be considered by the national churchwide assembly?

A: The draft represents the work to date of the task force, although not all task-force members agree with all aspects of the document as released March 13.

The national Church Council's recommendations for the proposed statement will be considered by the Churchwide Assembly Aug. 17-23, 2009, where it would require a two-thirds vote to be adopted.

Q: How did the task force decide what to focus on?

A: Because human sexuality is such a broad topic, the range of issues covered in the draft is limited.

It approaches sexuality primarily as a social issue in the same way other (ELCA) social statements address topics such as the environment, economics and health care.

It presents a framework for thinking through related issues and emphasizes responsibility and moral deliberation.

Specific topics werechosen by the task force to address issues we face as a society and as followers of Jesus Christ.

Q: The document shies from taking a position on homosexuality, saying the church has yet to reach consensus on the matter. How was this determined?

A: The reality that we have no consensus in the ELCA can be seen not only in the votes taken at recent Churchwide Assemblies but also in our life together as brothers and sisters in Christ who hold a variety of viewpoints on matters relating to gay and lesbian persons among us.


Q: How did the task force address the different views of Scripture underlying the conflict over same-gender relationships?

A: Task-force members themselves reflect a variety of ways of understanding and interpreting Scripture.

These different understandings and interpretations became part of the discussion, as they are whenever members of the ELCA who hold strongly differing understandings address the subject of same-gender sexual relationships.

Q: The document acknowledges the contributions to church life of committed same-gender relationships, single parishioners and other unconventional family structures. Why was this an important point?

A: It is important to the task force because it reflects reality of life in this church today.

Q: Some conservatives worry the draft statement opens the door to supporting same-gender committed relationships by defining marriage as a "relationship of love and trust between two people." Was this door purposely left open?

A: Elsewhere in the document marriage is defined as between a man and a woman.

The draft has been presented to the ELCA with the request that members review and discuss it and then share suggestions for ways to revise, amend and strengthen the current text.

Q: Why did the task force express regret that Lutheran teachings have been used "to tear apart families with gay or lesbian members," and ask Lutherans to welcome gays and advocate for legal protection for them?

A: Such regret was included because some members of the task force felt strongly about this.

Q: Where do you hope this document takes the conversation within the church about sexuality?

A: I hope this draft will lead members of the ELCA, along with its ecumenical partners, to a deeper conver- sation of what it means to be the Church of Jesus Christ, called to faithfulness in all aspects of life, including who we are as sexual beings created in the image of God.
Read the entire interview and article here.

And thanks, DB, for the heads up. Shrimp out.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Bishop Usgaard's Conclusion,
    and then to Holy Week

Bishop Harold "Huck" Usgaard of the Southeastern Minnesota Synod has written about the draft, too. We'll spare you the opening part -- go ahead, read it all here -- and cut right to his concluding paragraphs:
The final version of the Statement on Human Sexuality will be made available about this time next year. It will be available before our 2009 Synod Assembly, and give us an opportunity to discuss it and react to it before it is voted at the ELCA Churchwide Assembly in August 2009. We are planning substantial time during our 2009 Synod Assembly for discussion of this final statement. This will also offer an opportunity for resolutions to be discussed and voted from around our synod, and memorials to be sent to the Churchwide Assembly from the Southeastern Minnesota Synod regarding the statement.

Next year, at this time, recommendations regarding ordination of candidates in same sex relationships will also be made available. These were ordered by action of the 2007 ELCA Churchwide Assembly. You will note they are not included in this draft because they were not included on the original motion to produce a Social Statement on Human Sexuality. There will be the same opportunity at the 2009 Synod Assembly to discuss these recommendations, receive resolutions to be voted, and if desired, send memorials to the ELCA Churchwide Assembly.

Again, from previous experience, I suspect that some in the church will confuse this first draft with the final version of the statement. Remember and remind others that this is only a preliminary draft. Everyone is encourage to take an active part in the process. There often seem to be suspicions that decisions have already been made behind the scenes. That is simply not true. This is an opportunity for members to add their input. This is the time to to study the Scripture and Confessional texts used as a basis for the draft. Engage all members in discussion about relationships of friendship and trust and the central place of marriage. Discuss the division present in our church today around the topic of homosexuality. There is so much in this draft that speaks to the challenge of living a life of Christian faithfulness in our world today. What an opportunity this offers for us as a church and as individual believers.
And that's all the statements Shrimp had found by the end of the week on Synodical web sites, though we know other ELCA bishops have e-mailed the professional leaders in their synods noting the release of the draft, reminding folks of the upcoming hearings, and emphasizing that this is only a draft.

We'd be surprised if any of them have anything to add during Holy Week, and Shrimp encourages you to focus this week on matters of Holy Week itself. A good blog to be reading this week is The Confessing Reader -- read some scripture, reflect on the Word of God for each day, ponder some fine artistic renderings for Holy Week, and pray for the salvation of all.

Shrimp out.

Bishop deFreese Also Writes

Bishop David deFreese of the Nebraska Synod has this to say on the release of the sexuality draft:

Bishop deFreese on draft Social Statement on Human Sexuality

The Rev. Dr. David L. deFreese

Nebraska Synod,
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

March 13, 2008

ELCA First Draft of "Social Statement on Human Sexuality"

I am thankful for a church that addresses the crucial issues of life ... even when they are so deeply complex and controversial. Human sexuality is a matter deserving our most thoughtful and prayerful reflection because of its powerful impact upon our life together.

This first draft of an ELCA "Social Statement on Human Sexuality" is well rooted in Biblical scripture and human reason, and I believe, appropriately focuses upon two essential understandings: relationships and responsibility. Our relationship with God is primary in this discussion, as well as recognizing God's great design of life within community. This writing deals honestly and forthrightly with the reality of our human brokenness and selfishness. This is what we Lutherans call sin. It lifts up the human gift of responsibility in living out our lives, confronting where we fail and applauding where we flourish. Trustworthy relationships are at the heart of how we live.

This draft re-affirms that marriage is the location for full sexual expression, and testifies to the wonderful power of fidelity. It speaks to gender in friendships and confronts the risks of cohabitation. It also calls for continued prayer, study, and conversation as this church deals with same gender relationships. It wisely calls for greater protection of our children in an increasingly sexualized society, while denouncing the dangers of sexual exploitation.

This draft is not a finished product. Rather it calls for robust conversation and deliberation, hearings for people to share their understandings (of which Nebraska Synod will have two in September) and rewrites. The final draft will be voted upon at the August 2009 Churchwide Assembly.

Bishop David deFreese
March 2008

Bishop Crist Also Writes on the Draft

A letter on the sexuality draft from Bishop Jessica Crist of the Montana Synod:

March 13, 2008: Draft: Proposed ELCA Social Statement on Human Sexuality

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

     The draft of the proposed ELCA Social Statement on Human Sexuality is now available on the ELCA website.  It has also been released to the news outlets, so you may be seeing and hearing reports from the secular media.  I encourage you to read the document for yourself.  I encourage you to consider it prayerfully.  I encourage you to be in dialogue with your fellow church members respectfully. 

     There are a couple of things I want to point out to you:

1.  This is a draft.  It is only a draft.  It is not the finished product.  There is ample time for input, and there are appropriate channels for input.  Those include responding to the questions at the end of the document, and/or attending a hearing.  (We will have 2 in our Synod.

2. This is a draft of a social statement.  It is not a set of guidelines on sexual ethics.  A social statement is a teaching document intended to be useful in guiding deliberations on social issues.  It is broader than a set of do's and don't's, and it encourages the reader to think deeply and discern wisely.  It doesn't give answers to all questions.  There are people who would like to have the answers set out in black and white.  The document does not do that, nor was it intended to.

     This document is an affirmation that God created the earth and all that is in it (including us, as sexual beings), and called it good.  This document is the church's way of reclaiming the conversation on human sexuality, using the theological categories of incarnation, justification and serving the neighbor.  This document is the church's reponse to a culture that is highly sexualized and often presents an "anything goes" attitude.  This document affirms the totality of the human experience, including family, work, friendship, and explores trust as a significant contributor to public and private life.

     I urge you to read the document thoughtfully, taking in what it says and what it doesn't say.  And I encourage you to discuss it in ways that make sense, in your congregation, in other groups.  And I welcome you to come to one of the hearings to be held in the Montana Synod:

     Saturday, April 26:  10 a.m.--noon, Billings,  St. John's Lutheran Ministries, Lillis Center Chapel, 2429 Mission Way, Billings, MT

     Sunday, April 27:  3 p.m.---5 p.m., Missoula, St. Paul Lutheran Church, 202 Brooks St., Missoula, MT.

     May God be with you as you move into Holy Week and Easter.

     Sincerely in Christ,

Bishop Jessica Crist
Montana Synod ELCA
2415 13th Avenue South
Great Falls, MT 59405

Bishop Rogness on the Draft Statement

St. Paul Area Synod Bishop Peter Rogness was going to wait, but couldn't:

The Way it Looks from Here

March 13, 2008

Dear Partners in Ministry:

At noon today the ELCA churchwide office released the Draft Social Statement on Human Sexuality that had been called for by the 2001 Churchwide Assembly. This release date has been scheduled since last year. You may recall that at the time of the release of recommendations to the 2005 Churchwide Assembly regarding blessing and ordination of persons in same-gender relationships, I sent an e-letter giving some perspective and counsel as those recommendations were released. 

I hadn’t planned on doing an e-letter at the time of release of this draft statement, for two reasons: (1) I have consistently maintained that there are many issues that are important in the life of the church, and I don't simply email everyone whenever the issue is about sexuality; and (2) my judgment was this statement was broadly about human sexuality—and a rather deep and complex statement as well—and wouldn’t bring on the immediate volatile response that the 2005 issues around homosexuality would bring. So that was my plan, re-affirmed last week when I got my first look at the statement.

But here it is—just a little more than three hours after the draft statement's release, and I’m sending this email message! 

Why? Because one hour after its release, I was alerted to the stories that had been posted on the Star Tribune website, which I presume will be in tomorrow’s paper and will be widely read by the people in our churches. And since most of the buzz over this draft statement will come from people who have read the newspaper instead of the statement, I need to offer some help in both alerting you to the articles coming and the counter-perspective that people need to know.

There are actually two articles posted on the website. One is the national wire story carried by the Associated Press, headlined “Largest Lutheran group affirms traditional marriage in draft statement on sexuality.” The headline and article are fair and accurate. The second is a Star Tribune article that was headlined “The ELCA on ordaining gays: Preliminary statement issued today.” I was dismayed by the misleading headline, the inaccuracies in the body of the article, and, mostly, by the impression that the draft statement was all about ordaining homosexual ministers. The ELCA news service contacted the paper, which did respond by changing the headline to read “ELCA issues draft of human sexuality statement.” The article itself remains unchanged as I send this. Perhaps some of my other concerns will be changed by the time it is in print—I hope so. In any event, I want to offer some comments.
  • Go to the ELCA website, if you haven’t already, and download and read the statement itself. It’s long and it’s not light reading, but it is a solid piece of work that warrants study and reflection and response.

  • The Star Tribune article suggests that the draft is primarily about the ordination of gay persons. It is a 50-page report, about one and one-half pages are devoted to same gender relationships, and no pages (or sentences) are about ordination. 

  • The article gives the impression that the bishops of the church (article calls it Council of Bishops, but we’re actually the Conference of Bishops) are framing the document and the decision. Neither is the case. We neither authored the draft nor do we vote on policy. The task force proposes, the church council forwards, and the Churchwide Assembly votes.

  • My primary concern is the inaccurate representation of what has been written. First, it is a draft statement, not a report about anything. It is, in fact, a deeply theological and deeply Lutheran approach to human beings as sexual beings, about our sexuality being inherently part of our created being, used for the building of trusting relationships. As we're bombarded with stories in the news about sexuality being badly used, this draft statement is a wonderful, teachable resource for a desperately teachable moment. 
I end where I began. Invite people to read the document. It is a far broader piece of work than the articles describe. It addresses a host of important and everyday issues: marriage, cohabitation, protection of children, the value of friendship, social pressures of sexual messages, and many more. It is about theological issues of justification and incarnation. It is about critical human life issues regarding relationships and trust.  You won’t get that from the news articles. But you can and will get it from the document itself. 

We have six months for response. Our synod has hearings in September. The draft statement itself invites (even provides) vehicle for response, knowing it isn’t perfect, but believing—as I do—that it warrants our attention and reflection. It is a fine piece of work, for which we don’t need to apologize or hide.


Saturday, March 15, 2008

Forum Letter: "Humble and bold . . . not"

Shrimp here, again.

Pastor Richard O. Johnson, editor of Forum Letter, the monthly companion to Lutheran Forum, has posted a copy of his article from the upcoming April 2008 issue of FL over on the reprint section of ALPB Online. This first review of the Draft ELCA Social Statement on Human Sexuality is entitled "Humble and bold . . . not" and can be found here for those of you who do not subscribe to the Forum Package. Those of you who do subscribe (bless you!) will be receiving it at home soon, but you can read it online now, too.

Shrimp out.

Bishop Riley Addresses the Draft

Few of the ELCA Bishops have, thus far, made public statements on the first draft of an ELCA Social Statement on Human Sexuality. One who has is New Jersey Synod E. Roy Riley, who was until recently Chair of the ELCA Conference of Bishops. Shrimp found it here:
March 13, 2008


First draft of a proposed Social Statement on Human Sexuality released by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)

Response of E. Roy Riley, Bishop, New Jersey Synod, ELCA

The release of the first draft of a proposed ELCA Social Statement on Human Sexuality marks another step in a long journey together for the Lutheran Church toward deeper understanding and discernment in the increasingly complex sphere of human sexuality.

This is a first draft. Over the next eight months, congregations of this church will have opportunity to study and discuss the draft and make proposals for revision. In early 2009, a proposed social statement will be written based on this draft and the responses, eventually coming to the ELCA Churchwide Assembly in Minneapolis for consideration (August 2009).

The length of the draft (50 pages with footnotes) indicates both the complexity of the subject matter and the deep seriousness with which the task force has undertaken the work of declaring the theological and confessional grounding. I trust that the responses of the church will be offered out of the same in-depth, open-minded, and prayerful deliberation.

In my initial reading of the draft, I have noted in particular the following thoughts:
  • While love is to be at the center of all relationships, the statement gives great and important emphasis to the matter of trust in every relationship.

  • Ethics for some are rule-driven; the ethics from this statement are responsibility-driven: responsibility for our selves, our neighbors, and the common good.

  • There is a very strong emphasis on the critical role of families as the primary places for learning what love and trust are all about.

  • The draft places enormous importance on the protection of the most vulnerable in matters of human sexuality, especially children.

  • The draft recognizes that families are found in a variety of forms beyond the
    traditional, nuclear family.

  • An especially strong affirmation of traditional marriage is provided.

  • In all relationships, the degrees of intimacy should be matched to degrees of affection and commitment; thus the highest degrees of physical intimacy, such as intercourse, should be matched with and sheltered by the highest level of legally binding commitment, as is found in marriage.

  • The range of life circumstance is recognized honestly and pastorally, from the young delaying marriage, to those who choose to remain single, to those who are single-again as a result of divorce or death of a spouse, to the marriage versus economics issues of senior citizens.
In the consideration of homosexuality, the draft offers a number of significant statements, including the following:
  • confesses with regret the way in which Lutheran historical teachings concerning homosexuality sometimes have been used to tear apart families with gay or lesbian members;

  • acknowledges that after many years of study and conversation, this church does not have consensus regarding loving and committed same-gender relationships;

  • recognizes that while some pastors and congregations will advocate repentance and celibacy, other pastors and congregations will call our same-gender-oriented brothers and sisters in Christ to establish relationships that are chaste, mutual, monogamous, and life-long.
The draft also addresses a variety of other concerns, including the commercialization of sexuality and its enormous negative impact on the common good.

I am grateful for this church that takes so seriously its own faith and God’s call to take that faith into a very complex and sometimes deeply ambiguous world. We welcome all who wish to engage with us in this continuing journey of faith and life.

[Portions in italics are quoted from the draft statement.]
Shrimp'll be on the lookout for more. You can help

Argus Leader: "ELCA panel debates marriage"

The Sioux Fall (South Dakota) Argus Leader features some quotes from the South Dakota Synod Bishop:

ELCA panel debates marriage

Same-sex unions stance too lenient, critics say


A task force drafting a statement of sexuality, originating from a request years back by the South Dakota Synod, said Thursday the church should continue defining marriage as the union of one man and one women.

The panel did not condemn same-gender relationships and acknowledged that some congregations already accept same-sex couples.

The report released by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the nation's largest Lutheran group, is part of the denomination's seven-year effort to bridge internal differences over the Bible and homosexuality. It probably will be the topic of conversation during an upcoming pastors' conference in Watertown, according to the Rev. David Zellmer, bishop of the South Dakota Synod.

Zellmer called the report "a nice piece of work," though he knew not everyone would be happy with it, including those who say the draft study seems to tolerate homosexual relations but does not celebrate them.

"There's always a chance for it to become polarizing," Zellmer said. "It speaks very clearly to what marriage is. Is everyone going to be happy? No. Is everyone going to be unhappy? I don't think that's true, either. But I'm pretty impressed with this initial start."

The Rev. Karen Soli, interim pastor at Messiah New Hope Lutheran in Sioux Falls, said she hopes church members read the draft and absorb it more than react to it.

"I would hope they would ... think and talk and pray about it," Soli said. "Instead of going back to our polarized positions, whatever they might be, I would hope we would have an open mind and spirit. They are very difficult issues."

Called a "Draft Social Statement on Human Sexuality," the report is a wide-ranging study of Christian views on sexual morality, premarital sex, domestic abuse and families.

But the most anticipated part of the document was whether the task force would recommend equal standing for gay and heterosexual couples in the 4.8 million-member church.

Zellmer said he was certain the document would be discussed at a spring pastors' conference in Watertown in 10 days. There also will be two hours set aside at the Synod Assembly at the end of May to discuss it.
The full article is here.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "...moderate stance"

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article focusses on the gay/lesbian issues:

Sexuality statement takes moderate stance

Same-sex relationships neither blessed nor condemned


The first draft of a social statement on sexuality appears to be deepening discussions within the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America without breaking enough new ground to intensify debate over whether to approve blessings or ordinations of people in committed, same-gender relationships.

Released Thursday, the draft statement offers something to both encourage and disappoint people on each side of the debate.

The document stands by marriage as being between a man and a woman but does not condemn same-gender relationships.

It reiterates the church's call to "welcome, care for and support same-gender-oriented people and their families, and to advocate for their legal protection." And it acknowledges that some ELCA congregations advocate repentance and celibacy for same-gender couples while others call for them to have faithful, committed relationships.

In the Greater Milwaukee Synod, which has been a leader in advocating same-sex blessings and the ordination of gay and lesbian clergy, reactions to the statement varied.

"I'm grateful that it's solidly rooted in Scripture and speaks to the whole of human sexuality," said Bishop Paul Stumme-Diers of the Greater Milwaukee Synod. "The temptation can be to focus on same-gender relationships, but that topic has only one and a half pages out of 50 devoted to it.

"The draft statement reiterates that as a church we commit ourselves to responding pastorally to all relationships, and that all relationships are built upon trust," Stumme-Diers said.

Its explanations of the importance of trust in relationships are very helpful, said the Rev. Susan Gaeta of Divine Word Lutheran Church in Milwaukee. But she was disappointed that bisexual people were not mentioned.

"There's definitely further work that needs to be done," Gaeta said.

"The whole statement sets a hopeful tone for our gay and lesbian friends in that it recognizes that their needs, desires and rights are the same as for heterosexual persons," said the Rev. Barbara Rasmussen of Our Savior's Lutheran Church in Milwaukee. "It's disappointing that the term marriage is blocked from use in same-sex unions, thus leaving them in a second-class status."
To read it all, click here.

Star Tribune: "ELCA Stays Neutral..."

The Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune begins its report:

ELCA stays neutral in sexuality statement

The Lutherans' draft report sets the stage for a debate on gay ordination at their 2009 convention in Minneapolis.


Facing a likely vote on the ordination of gays at the 2009 national convention, which will be held in Minneapolis, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) on Thursday issued its Draft Statement on Human Sexuality. Seven years in the making, the report does not take a specific stand on gay ordination -- that will come in a position paper to be released in about a year -- but it does lay the groundwork for the impending debate.

"This is a social statement, not a policy statement," said the chairman of the task force that prepared the report, Bishop Peter Strommen of the Northeastern Minnesota Synod based in Duluth. Though the report addresses a wide range of subjects, he acknowledged that "the section on same-gender relationships is going to be the flashpoint."

Readers will look for hints on which way sentiment is running on gay issues but won't find any, he warned: "After many years of study and conversation, this church does not have consensus regarding loving and committed same-gender relationships," the 50-page document reads.

That lack of unanimity is reflected in the report. At one point, it says the church supports sexual relations only within the context of a "binding commitment, such as marriage," which it goes on to describe as "a structure of mutual promise between a man and a woman." But it also concedes that an argument can be made that fidelity outranks legal status. Homosexual relationships that "are chaste, monogamous and lifelong are to be held to the same rigorous standards and sexual ethics as all others."

Church leaders hope to keep the debate grounded in church ethics, Strommen said. "We don't want to turn this into a culture war. As a church, we have far more in common than we have differences."
Read it all here, especially for quotes from Bishop Peter Strommen of the Northeastern Minnesota Synod, who is the Task Force Chair.

More news articles

Shrimp here. Going through American newspapers is an education in headline writing, as we find the AP wire, the Los Angeles Times, and the Chicago Tribune articles the basis for much of what is being published in newspapers. So Shrimp tosses you headlines and links, and you can read 'em for yourself (note: for some you made need to register to read).

The LA Times story is in the...

Kansas City Star: Lutheran panel makes statement on marriage

Youngstown (Ohio) Vindicator: Lutheran panel fails to set policy on gays

The AP is used by the...

Boston Globe: Largest Lutheran group in US affirms traditional marriage: But urges respect for gays, lesbians

Chicago Sun-Times: Lutherans: Marriage is 1 man, 1 woman, but . .

Detroit Free Press: Lutheran report doesn't condemn gay couples: But marriage still defined as a man, a woman, it says

Grand Forks Herald: ELCA reaffirms marriage teaching, but doesn't condemn same-gender relationships

The Chicago Tribune story shows up in the...

Baltimore Sun: Lutheran paper accepts gay family relationships

Duluth News Tribune: Lutheran statement on sexuality emphasizes trust in relationships

And that's a flavor of the headlines in the country.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Christianity Today: ELCA Punts

Christianity Today, using the Religious News Service story:

Seven Years in the Making, Draft ELCA Statement on Sexuality Punts

"This church does not have consensus," committee says.

A long-awaited draft statement by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America shies from taking a position on homosexuality, saying the church has yet to reach consensus on the matter.

Current ELCA policies, which bar non-celibate homosexual clergy, are not discussed in the draft released Thursday, March 13.
And while the church "recognizes the historic origin of the term 'marriage' as … between a man and a woman," the statement also notes that some ELCA pastors and congregations support same-sex unions.

"After many years of study and conversation, this church does not have consensus regarding loving and committed same-gender relationships," the statement reads.

Nearly seven years in the making, "Journey Together Faithfully" is intended as a framework for future ELCA debates on sexuality.

Compiled by a 15-member committee of bishops, pastors, psychologists, professors and a homemaker, the draft now begins an eight-month comment period within the ELCA, the nation's largest Lutheran body. A second draft will be produced after the comment period.

If approved by a two-thirds majority at the ELCA's Churchwide Assembly next year, the statement will be used to guide church policy for its 4.8 million members.

Like other mainline Protestant denominations, the ELCA has been torn by how open the church should be to gay and lesbian clergy and laity.

But efforts to liberalize the church's gay policies have stalled.

At last year's Churchwide Assembly, delegates voted to uphold a ban on sexually active gay and lesbian clergy but cautioned bishops against applying the ban too strictly.
Go ahead, read it all

LA Times: "Lutheran draft report sidesteps judgment...

The Los Angeles Times:

Lutheran draft report sidesteps judgment on gay marriage

Finding little consensus in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, a panel recommends that wedlock still be defined as between a man and a woman, but it doesn't condemn same-sex unions.

A task force drafting a long-awaited statement on sexuality for the nation's largest Lutheran denomination has recommended that the church continue to define marriage as a union between a woman and a man.

The panel, in a preliminary report released Thursday, said that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, despite years of study, had yet to reach consensus on same-sex unions. The draft, which did not condemn such unions, also expressed regret that historical Lutheran teachings on homosexuality had sometimes been used to hurt gays and lesbians.

The 50-page report also noted that the church "does not favor" unmarried couples living together but acknowledged social forces behind such arrangements.

The denomination, with 4.8 million members, is among several mainline Protestant churches struggling to reconcile various views of homosexuality and the Bible. Next year, the task force is expected to decide whether to recommend changes to current church policy barring noncelibate gays and lesbians from the clergy.

The "Draft Social Statement on Human Sexuality" is intended to guide church members in setting policy and forming judgments about social issues, officials said. After revisions, it will be presented for a vote at the church's next biennial assembly, in 2009.

A wide-ranging survey of human sexuality, the statement celebrates "this complicated dimension of ourselves," with all its joys and challenges. "Sexuality can be wondrous and wounding, delightful and destructive, satisfying and confusing . . . sometimes at the same time," it says.
The rest of the story includes quotes from LC/NA's Emily Eastwood, WordAlone's Mark Chavez, and local ELCA Bishop Dean Nelson.

More coming...

And in Dallas, McClatchy says...

The Dallas Morning News:

Lutheran statement on sexuality emphasizes trust

CHICAGO – The nation's largest Lutheran denomination on Thursday released the first draft of an unprecedented social statement on human sexuality that emphasizes the importance of trust at the center of people's relationships with friends, family, sexual partners and God.

It does not discuss whether the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America should allow gay and lesbian clergy to serve. That issue, currently vexing many Protestant denominations, will be addressed in a second document, leaders said.

The long-awaited sexuality statement upholds the traditional definition of marriage as between a man and a woman, but it also acknowledges the contributions to church life of committed same-gender relationships, single parishioners and other unconventional family structures.

"This church continues to oppose transient sexual affairs and promiscuity," the statement said. "It does so while undertaking to help all who are sexually active, married and unmarried alike, to demonstrate responsibility and appreciate the dangers of trivialization, betrayal, exploitation, injustice, and abuse."

The document also holds same-sex partners to the same standards as married couples, requiring relationships to "chaste, mutual, monogamous, and lifelong."

Authors of the statement said they wanted to steer the conversation on sexuality back to such important issues as the responsibilities of the family and church to teach values to young people.
Okay, you know the drill: see it all here.


USA Today: "Lutheran group keeps marriage traditional"

USA Today uses part of the Associated Press wire story:

Lutheran group keeps marriage traditional

NEW YORK (AP) — A task force drafting a statement on sexuality for the nation's largest Lutheran group said Thursday that the church should continue defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

However, the panel did not condemn same-gender relationships. The committee expressed regret that historic Lutheran teachings have been used to hurt gays and lesbians, and acknowledged that some congregations already accept same-sex couples.

The report released by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is part of the denomination's yearslong effort to bridge internal differences over the Bible and homosexuality.

The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, a separate, smaller group, is theologically conservative, and teaches that same-gender relationships violate Scripture.

Called a "Draft Social Statement on Human Sexuality," the report is a wide-ranging study of Christian views on sexual morality, premarital sex, domestic abuse and families.

But the most anticipated part of the document was whether the task force would recommend equal standing for gay and heterosexual couples in the 4.8 million-member church.

Next year, the panel will decide whether to suggest changes in current clergy standards that bar gays and lesbians from being ordained if they are sexually active. After revisions, both proposals will be presented for a vote to the 2009 Churchwide Assembly in Minneapolis.

The document released Thursday repeatedly states that sexual intimacy should be reserved for married couples, and condemns sex for personal gratification alone.

"The church recognizes the historic origin of the term 'marriage' as a lifelong and committed relationship between a woman and a man, and does not wish to alter this understanding," the report says.

The task force goes on to describe different responses to gays and lesbians in congregations, noting that some churches require celibacy for them, while others urge gay couples to "establish relationships that are chaste, mutual, monogamous and lifelong."

"These relationships are to be held to the same rigorous standards and sexual ethics as all others," the document says. "This suggests that dissolution of a committed same-gender relationship be treated with the same gravity as the dissolution of a marriage."
Read it all here. For all of Rachel Zoll's AP wire story, see Lutheran Group Addresses Marriage Issue.

more coming...

Press Reaction to ELCA Sexuality Draft

Shrimp here. Thanks to Google News, seeing how a good part of the mainstream media covers church news isn't too difficult. The good news for those pastors worried about this being a big deal just before Holy Week is that it doesn't seem to be a big story.

Here's what's Shrimp found so far:

The Chicago Tribune:

Proposed Lutheran sex statement stresses trust

Gay clergy issue not addressed in draft document to be voted on in 2009

By Manya A. Brachear | Tribune reporter
10:59 PM CDT, March 13, 2008

The nation's largest Lutheran denomination on Thursday released the first draft of an unprecedented social statement on human sexuality that emphasizes the importance of trust at the center of people's relationships with friends, family, sexual partners and God.

It does not discuss whether the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America should allow gay and lesbian clergy to serve. That issue, currently vexing many Protestant denominations, will be addressed in a second document, leaders said.

The long-awaited sexuality statement upholds the traditional definition of marriage as between a man and a woman, but it also acknowledges the contributions to church life of committed same-gender relationships, single parishioners and other unconventional family structures.

"This church continues to oppose transient sexual affairs and promiscuity," the statement said. "It does so while undertaking to help all who are sexually active, married and unmarried alike, to demonstrate responsibility and appreciate the dangers of trivialization, betrayal, exploitation, injustice, and abuse."

The document also holds same-sex partners to the same standards as married couples, requiring relationships to be "chaste, mutual, monogamous, and lifelong."

Authors of the statement said they wanted to steer the conversation on sexuality back to such important issues as the responsibilities of the family and church to teach values to young people.

"It's shifting the focus from the form [of family] to what's at stake and what's the purpose," said Rev. Roger Willer, one of the authors of the statement. "Rather than list the do's and don'ts, the focus should be on helping people understand why."
Read it all here.

CBN News currently has this story:

Christian Group Reports on Sexual Morality

The nation's largest Lutheran group is urging the church to continue defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman. But the group did not offer a consensus on same-sex relationships.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America released a report Thursday, that broadly studied Christian views on sexual morality, premarital sex and other family issues. The report is called a "Draft Social Statement on Human Sexuality."

In it, the group did not condemn same-sex relationships, but expressed regret that Lutheran teachings have been used to hurt rather than help homosexuals. They said the Bible "can be abused and misunderstood through selective use as a moral guide," noting that verses were once used to justify slavery.

Still, the report stood firm on the definition of marriage, and the importance of love and reserving sexual intimacy for marriage.

"The church recognizes the historic origin of the term `marriage' as a lifelong and committed relationship between a woman and a man, and does not wish to alter this understanding," it said.
Read it all here (note: the headline and story have already changed at least once).

More in next post....

The ELCA's Own News Release

From the ELCA News Service


March 13, 2008

ELCA 'Draft Social Statement on Human Sexuality' Now Available

     CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The Task Force for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Studies on Sexuality released the "Draft Social Statement on Human Sexuality" March 13 for study and response across the 4.8 million-member ELCA.  Responses to the draft social statement are due to the task force Nov. 1, 2008.

    Social statements are teaching documents that assist Lutherans in forming judgments on social issues.  They provide theological and ethical framework for discussion, discernment and decision-making, set policy for the church, and guide the church's advocacy and work in church and society.  Social statements are adopted by a two-thirds vote at ELCA churchwide assemblies.  Held every other year, the churchwide assembly is the ELCA's highest legislative authority.  The next assembly is Aug. 17-23, 2009, in Minneapolis.

    "We are sexual creatures from the moment of birth to the time of death.  This draft social statement takes that seriously and addresses sexuality in relation to the various situations of our lives.  The common question at all times is what serves the good of the neighbor, what creates and sustains trust, and what protects from harm," said the Rev. Rebecca S. Larson, executive director, ELCA Church in Society.

    "It is the hope of the task force that this draft social statement will invite this church into continued conversation. This draft forms the best thinking of the task force to date, although not all members of the task force agree with all parts of the document. The task force hopes to learn what in the draft is helpful, what might be changed, and what is missing," said Larson.

    Most of the ELCA's 65 synods plan to host hearings between March and November as an opportunity for Lutherans to discuss the draft social statement.  At least one representative of the task force is to attend each hearing.  The ELCA has 10,549 congregations organized into its 65 synods.  The draft document contains a form for other responses.

    Based on the responses from the church the task force will revise and prepare a proposed social statement, which is due in early 2009.  The proposed social statement will be given to the ELCA Church Council for its consideration and with a request to place the document on the agenda of the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly for action.  The Church Council is the ELCA's legislative authority between churchwide assemblies.

    The 2001 ELCA Churchwide Assembly initiated the process to develop a social statement on human sexuality.  At the direction of the council, a task force was formed to carry out the process.  The task force published three studies and a youth resource to invite deliberation and response across the ELCA under the "Journey Together Faithfully" banner.

Content of the ELCA 'Draft Social Statement on Human Sexuality'

    The draft social statement does not address current ELCA policies, which "preclude practicing homosexual persons from the rosters of this church."  The task force has been asked to make recommendations on official church rosters to the 2009 churchwide assembly.  These recommendations will be available in February 2009.

    There are four primary sections between the draft social statement's introduction and conclusion:  "Theological and ethical foundations for understanding sexuality"; "Sexuality as part of God's creative activity"; "Trust at the heart of faith active in love"; and, "Social trust and the common good."

    Section one recognizes that the Lutheran tradition has a unique contribution to the conversation and moral discernment on human sexuality.  Section two explores a Lutheran approach to sexual ethics.  Section three describes "God's gift of sexuality" in creation.

    Section four looks at matters of trust -- how trust among people "forms the basis of healthy relationships, including sexual relationships."  This section also looks at marriage, cohabitation, same-gender relationships and more.  The draft social statement says that in commitment and sexuality "this church teaches that degrees of physical intimacy should be carefully matched to degrees of affection and commitment.  This also suggests a way to understand why this church has taught that the greatest physical intimacies, such as intercourse, should be matched with and sheltered by the highest level of binding commitment, such as found in marriage."  The draft statement says that the ELCA "does not favor or give approval to cohabitation arrangements outside of marriage" but that there are broad social forces and that "certain laws and economic realities in this society create economic hardship for many, including senior citizens, who desire to be legally married." 

    The draft statement says that after "many years of study and conversation, this church does not have consensus regarding loving and committed same-gender relationships.  This church has committed itself to continuing to accompany one another in study, prayer, discernment and pastoral care."

    Section five extends to the area of how "trust fosters healthy sexuality in community life."

    "Lutherans believe that there is nothing we can do -- either right or wrong action -- to win the love of God.  God's love comes to us despite who we are.  And, we respond to that love by caring for and seeking the good of our neighbor," said Larson.

    "This draft social statement insists that God has created us as sexual and therefore relational beings.  This is God's intention and it is good.  It is for this reason that the theme of trust is so evident, because trust is the cornerstone for the flourishing of all relationships and of society," said Larson.  "In no area of our lives is trust more critical than in the area of human sexuality.  We are therefore called to demonstrate trust in all of our relationships and to work to make this world a more trustworthy place."

    Lutherans do not make up a "rule book of right and wrong behaviors" which, Larson said, will not be found in the draft social statement.  "Lutherans seek to help people make ethical decisions in the midst of the messiness of life," she said, adding that the draft social statement on human sexuality speaks strongly against "all the causes of harm, including and especially the violation of trust for children," and the misuse of trust and power in all relationships.

    According to the Rev. Peter Strommen, bishop, ELCA Northeastern Minnesota Synod, Duluth, and task force chair, the draft social statement "intentionally grounds its thinking in an evangelical Lutheran tradition.  The reader will notice this as a prominent characteristic of the document.  In addition, a case is made for important social institutions such as marriage.  It is recognized that the same degree of social consensus that once existed can no longer be assumed.  The use of 'trust' represents a fresh approach that is embedded in Lutheran tradition and effective in addressing both public and personal dimensions of human sexuality.  This document works with the inter-relationship of the social, cultural, economic and religious, both private and public."

    Strommen added that the intent of the draft social statement is "churchwide engagement and feedback.  The invitation is, 'let's think together and improve this document before it comes as a proposed statement in 2009."

- - -
    The "Draft Social Statement on Human Sexuality" of the ELCA is available at on the ELCA's Web site.

For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or
ELCA News Blog:

A statement from Emily Eastwood, Executive Director, Lutherans Concerned / North America:

It is in the best interests of achieving full inclusion that everyone participates in this process fully, reflecting what you think about the statement.

Frankly, the draft is not what we had hoped for, but it does make incremental, if glacial, progress beyond the social statements of the predecessor bodies to the ELCA. The old ALC statement put "homosexuals" in the same category with murderers. The LCA statement on "Sex, Marriage and Family" said that homosexuals were sinners only as were all others. In contrast, the first draft of this ELCA statement admits candidly that the church does not have consensus on how to treat same-gender couples and families. This is most certainly true. The truth the document fails to mention, however, is that our church no longer has consensus on the definition of marriage. Still in only two sentences does the document actually define marriage as between a man and a woman. Rather, in the rest of the document the qualities and requirements for committed relationships for heterosexual and same-gender couples are virtually identical. As such, the draft seems an uneasy and inconsistent compromise between the opposing views on same-gender relationships delineated by the document itself.

This draft is another marker on the road to the ELCA Churchwide Assembly 2009 (CWA09) where the church will take up the final draft, implementing resolutions and whatever recommendations come from the Task Force and ELCA Church Council on rostering. From now through CWA09 the frame for our involvement in the social statement process will be one of graceful engagement from within. The results of the process of hearings, responses, and edits will rely heavily on our willingness and ability to take the time and sum up the courage to engage that process at every level. The hearings at Synod Assemblies and at other times in your synod will provide critical opportunities for LGBT Lutherans, our families, allies and advocates to speak and be heard. If we do not speak, we leave the discussion to those who would talk about us rather than with us.

Now is the time to help Peter and Cornelius meet as often as possible. When we tell our stories of family, of faith in God, of love and commitment for one another and our church, and when we listen deeply to the stories of those who oppose full inclusion, we do our part. For the rest we rely upon the presence and guidance of the Holy Spirit to move the church and its members to acceptance and celebration of the full inclusion of LGBT people and their families.

For those of us with the patience and perseverance to continue, we have entered the next stage. Some of us are road weary. This year marks the 30th anniversary of my outing in seminary. Many of you have been on this particular road longer than that. Still, I see hope and movement in this draft. I firmly believe, as I have for the last 20 years that what we do and say will make a difference.

As Paul says, (Romans 8:14-17) "for all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry "Abba!" it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ..."And (Romans 8:38-39), "for I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor power, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus."

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Lutherans Concerned/North America calls for the recognition of LGBT families

March 13, 2008

Lutherans Concerned/North America calls for the recognition of LGBT families

Lutherans Concerned / North America (LC/NA) has both considerable agreement and substantial disagreement with the draft Social Statement on Sexuality, released for comment within the church by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) on March 13, 2008.

LC/NA affirms the Christian values lifted up in this draft statement: serving the neighbor, trust and commitment, family, right relationship, and public accountability, all combined in a sexual and communal ethic that seeks to build the common good and the reign of God. LC/NA agrees that the church should work to preserve the resources needed for the survival and flourishing of family life by celebrating relationships and fostering the communal structure in which these relationships are lived out.

Emily Eastwood, Executive Director, Lutherans Concerned / North America, said, "This draft merely tolerates rather than celebrates the presence of same-gender families in the church. It is inconsistent and insufficient: it confesses with regret that its historical teachings concerning homosexuality sometimes have been used to tear apart families with gay or lesbian members. It calls for an end to discrimination, an end to violence against and persecution of sexual minorities. Yet the church continues to discriminate against same-gender couples and families by relegating them to second-class status. It is hypocritical for this church to hold society to a higher standard than itself.

"The draft purports as fact the traditional definition of marriage. But, there is no consensus within the ELCA that marriage is only between a man and a woman. In fact, some synods within the ELCA have repeatedly defeated resolutions asserting that definition of marriage. There is broad agreement on the values that are the ground and source of relational and family life. If we are going to promote those values in same-gender relationships, we should also honor those relationships.

"The document does not provide for the rites and structures of celebration, the making of promises and the call on God for blessing of same-gender relationships. If the church wishes to hold persons in same-gender relationships to the same ethical standards as heterosexual married couples, then the church must offer the same standards of support and benefit to same-gender couples. Marriage is not easy. Without the rites and protections of marriage, the frequent dissolution of relationships becomes the rule rather than the exception. The church undercuts its own values by withholding recognition of same-gender relationships and precluding the rostered service of otherwise qualified candidates in those relationships. Our church should not discriminate."

The statement says that the central issue regarding families is whether a family performs the indispensible personal and social tasks that families are intended to accomplish. Further the statement says the first response of the church toward all families should be one of welcome and support. Families with same-gender parents are included. Yet, the statement withholds public affirmation, celebration, and accountability – on the grounds that some families are more "blessed" than others.

Lutherans Concerned encourages members of the ELCA to fully participate in the hearings and studies in the coming months. It is important all voices be heard so that the resulting feedback is more representative and produces a more consistent social statement recognizing the faithful vocations of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities in all aspects of the life of the church.

The draft statement will now be the subject of hearings and study throughout the ELCA during March through October 2008. While this draft neither encourages nor prohibits the rostered service of otherwise qualified ministers in committed, same-gender relationships, the task force will make its recommendations on such rostering in February 2009. A final social statement will be prepared and submitted to the ELCA Church Council in early 2009 with a request that the Social Statement be placed on the agenda of the 2009 Churchwide Assembly being held in Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 17–23, 2009.

About Lutherans Concerned:Lutherans Concerned / North America works for the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Lutherans in all aspects of the life of their Church and congregations. Lutherans Concerned provides a place of comfort and safety. Lutherans Concerned reaches out and teaches that Christ's message, the Gospel, is for everyone equally. Lutherans Concerned calls for the blessing of committed and covenanted same-gender relationships, and for the ordination of those called to minister.

Phil SoucyDirector of Communications
Lutherans Concerned/North America

Lutheran CORE News Release Regarding Draft Statement

News Release Regarding Draft Statement
March 13, 2008

Contact: Mark Chavez (717) 898-0801

Lutheran CORE leaders respond to release of draft ELCA sexuality statement

Leaders of Lutheran CORE responded Thursday, March 13, to the release of the “Draft Social Statement on Human Sexuality” for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Lutheran CORE is a coalition of pastors, lay people, congregations and reforming groups that seeks to preserve the authority of Scripture in the ELCA.

“It is important to recognize that this is the first draft of a social statement on sexuality,” said the Rev. Paull Spring of State College, Pa., chair of the Lutheran CORE Steering Committee. “We encourage ELCA members to study the draft and to take the time to submit responses to the Task Force supporting areas where the statement is strong and suggesting ways that the statement can be improved.”

“There is a lot in the statement that can be affirmed, but there are some glaring theological errors here,” said Spring, the retired bishop of the Northwestern Pennsylvania Synod.

“The draft statement would change the definition of marriage by implication. This is a cause of great concern,” Spring said. “Lutherans have traditionally defined marriage as ‘a lifelong covenant of faithfulness between a man and a woman.’ The statement calls marriage a relationship of love and trust between two people. From this perspective, the statement opens the door to supporting same-gender committed relationships.”

“Lutherans have traditionally addressed sexuality biblically by starting with creation and noting that God created humans male and female. The draft statement seems to have avoided those biblical passages and that perspective of human sexuality,” Spring explained. “There is a surprising absence of procreation as a purpose of marriage,” he added.

“While I appreciate the work and the dedication of the members of the task force in writing this draft, I must express my profound disappointment at the weakness of this statement,” said the Rev. Erma Wolf, vice chair of the Lutheran CORE Steering Committee. “However, I strongly encourage people across the ELCA to read this statement and to submit their responses to the task force. This statement, if passed, will be the basis for teaching and for future policies in this area. The task force needs to hear from the congregations and the baptized people of God in order to have a statement that will truly serve the mission of the church in boldly following her Lord, Jesus Christ.” Wolf is associate pastor of the Brandon-Split Rock Lutheran Parish in Brandon, S.D.

Lutheran CORE has prepared a resource to help members of ELCA congregations to participate in the process leading to an ELCA Social Statement on Sexuality and to enable them to better understand some of the questions on human sexuality that will be considered at the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly. The resource is available online at

The first draft of the social statement is available online at . This draft was prepared by a church task force and is the result of a seven-year study process. The draft released on Thursday is awaiting response and input from church members.

Following an eight-month period of input from members of ELCA congregations, a second draft of the statement will be prepared. The revised draft is scheduled to be released in February 2009. The Task Force will also release its recommendations on whether the ELCA should change its policy to permit persons in same-sex sexual relationships to serve as pastors and other “rostered leaders” in the ELCA in February 2009.The 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly (Aug. 17-23, 2009, in Minneapolis) will decide whether to adopt an ELCA social statement on human sexuality.

ELCA social statements are to explain what the ELCA understands to be Scripture’s teaching and faithful Christian responses to a given topic. They are intended as teaching statements addressing the members of ELCA congregations to help them in their own ethical decision-making. Social statements also shape the activities of ELCA organizations as they address social issues through church policy and efforts to influence government action.For more information on Lutheran CORE go to

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

It's Here!!!

Yes, the First Draft is available. Here's the e-mail announcement for posterity's sake:
Dear leader:

Please find here the link for the secured website through which you can access the confidential preview of the Draft Social Statement on Human Sexuality beginning today at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. That link is: [No, we're not telling. If you don't believe us, click here anyway]

Please keep in mind that this is being made available to you personally and with the understanding that you will hold this information in strictest confidence until the public release tomorrow, March 13, at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.

We have two requests of you:

1. Please be patient with the technology if you cannot get access immediately. If you experience difficulties downloading the document, please consult the instructions on the confidential preview Web page. If you cannot access the page itself or cannot resolve the problems yourself, please contact or phone 800-638-3522 for assistance.

2. Should you have questions or other needs for immediate communication on this draft, please consider contacting your synod office first.

The response period is open until November 1, 2008. Using the form at the back of the draft booklet or online at , or attending a synod hearing, is the best way to respond to the task force.

Thank you so very much for your pastoral leadership of our church at this time. Let us hold one another and this church in prayer during these days, confident of the guidance and wisdom of the Holy Spirit in this process as in all things.

Kind regards,

Rebecca Larson
Executive Director
Church in Society
Before downloading, ELCA rostered leaders see this:

Confidential Preview of a
Draft Social Statement on Human Sexuality

A document labeled with the term "embargoed" or "subject to embargo" is to be kept strictly confidential until the specified release time that accompanies the document. Normally, such documents are provided to interested parties for review and preparation prior to public release.

In this case, we request that you maintain the confidentiality of both the Web links and the Draft Social Statement on Human Sexuality until 1 p.m. Eastern Time, Thursday, March 13, 2008.

etc., etc., etc.

So, if anyone breaks the embargo, will they be subject to discipline by their Bishop? Or will synods, synodical bishops, and the presiding bishop to refrain from or demonstrate restraint in disciplining those persons who ignored the embargo and released the statement a few hours early?

Shrimp out.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

First Draft, Second Meaning

Shrimp here and, frankly, we're stunned. You already know, especially if you read Shellfish regularly, that tomorrow ELCA rostered leaders (that's Pastors, diaconal ministers, deaconesses, AIMs, and LMNOPs [okay, we made the last one up, but we're sure some (other) wag can use that to come up with a name for the ELCA's official lists of "ministers" who are not rostered in the ELCA]) receive that special e-mail giving instructions for downloading the First Draft of the proposed ELCA Social Statement on Human Sexuality. This way, they have 24 hours to read and digest it before it is publicly released, complete with explanatory press conference at ELCA HQ, Thursday at Noon so local religion reporters can skim for the statement's red flags and and start calling local clergy for their reactions, all so it can be published either in Friday's paper or, better yet, on Saturday's next to your Holy Week announcement.

Turns out that, even as this is a First Draft which will be studied and fine-tuned (or completely rewritten) for next year, that this is all happening just before Holy Week is likely to be a run-through for next year's Holy Week preparations, too. At least that's how it appears to Pastor Zip, who's compared the official timeline with an actual calendar:

2009 Timeline:
March 27 - 30
ELCA Church Council reviews text of proposed social statement and acts to recommend social statement on human sexuality, implementing resolutions, and roster recommendations, and directs that these be placed on the Churchwide Assembly agenda.

RECOMMENDED social statement on human sexuality, implementing resolutions, and roster recommendations are available to the church for discussion and response through synod assembly actions.
2009 Calendar:
April 5   Palm Sunday
April 9   Maundy Thursday
April 10  Good Friday
April 11  Easter Sunday
Remember, Synod Assembly season begins near the end of April (one is already scheduled to begin April 30) and, if a Synod wants to discuss or pass a resolution/memorial related to the Sexuality Statement, it'll be a lot more important to do so with the final proposal in 2009 rather that the First Draft this year, one of the reasons given to justify this year's date rather than delaying until after Easter.

So, when do you think the final proposal will be released? Anyone else think the Thursday before Holy Week, once again?

Shrimp suggests flogging someone (or perhaps the whole staff) at Higgins Road with palm branches. [Oh, wait a minute, the ELCA opposes corporal punishment...]

A blessed Holy Week! Shrimp out.

For your consideration...

Cap'n Bill here: Har, matey. Do ye remember The Twilight Zone? Rod Serling would introduce an episode with "For your consideration..."

We want you to consider this from "Walking With Integrity, The official blog of Integrity USA." In case you are not in the know, that is the Episcopal gay liberation agenda Integrity. Their leader (the Reverend) Susan Russell [that's not me but how she signs her name in the letter we are referring too below], is the main voice, the chosen leader, the veritable fulcrum tip that is prying apart the worldwide Anglican Communion. In a five word paragraph in this recent letter addressing how the conservatives didn't show up for yet another round of dialogue, she writes, "We showed up. They didn't."

Now, this is posted on a blog whose template reads, "For over 30 years, Integrity has been a witness of God's inclusive love to the Episcopal Church and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community."

So, consider this, is 30 years a long enough period of time to discuss an issue?

For you ELCA'ers who bemoan that we are eight years in an official nine year dialogue, what is that, you want to spend another 22 years talking about this?

Read it here.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

California Supreme Court in gay marriage storm

By Howard MintzMercury News

The California Supreme Court is seemingly as divided as society is over gay marriage.

For more than three hours Tuesday, the seven justices of the state's high court shifted back and forth on whether to uphold California's ban on same-sex marriage, at times appearing to spar with each other as they weighed their most important civil rights case in decades.

The justices peppered lawyers on both sides of the case with dozens of questions that made predicting an outcome a fool's game. The court is reviewing a similarly divided 2006 appeals court ruling that upheld California's ban on gay marriage and a 2000 ballot initiative confining marriage to a union between a man and woman.

Underscoring the passions behind the conflict, demonstrators on both sides of the issue lined up outside the Supreme Court building, armed with placards and chants as they awaited the crucial legal arguments. Inside, an overflow crowd unable to get a seat in the courtroom jammed a downstairs auditorium to watch the arguments on a big-screen television, a boisterous group that cheered and jeered as though attending a high school basketball game.

But the stakes were evident in the courtroom, as the justices aired their first public views in a case they must decide within 90 days. Justices Marvin Baxter and Ming Chin, perhaps the court's most conservative members, seemed to have the deepest reservations about siding with civil rights groups and San Francisco city officials, who argue that the ban violates the equal-protection rights of gay and lesbian couples seeking the power to wed.

The story, and its coverage of the circus atmosphere, here:

The good ship ELCA...

The good ship ELCA...
Or the Shellfish blog...